Welcome to a premium Wednesday evening edition of Progressives Everywhere!
Quickly, I want to thank everyone for reading my piece this morning and for the positive feedback. I also want to welcome our new premium members and thank you for your support. I’m excited to have you aboard as we build up our alternative progressive media ecosystem. I’m planning on reactivating Progressives Everywhere’s social media channels over the next few days after a year or so of mostly focusing on the newsletter, so stay tuned for that.
As I mentioned this morning, the election news wasn’t all bad last night, and so this evening we’re going to look at results in the municipal, state, and ballot initiative elections that I previewed last month (along with a few others).
Well, I won’t tell you that there won’t be some real disappointments here, but for the most part, candidates and ballot initiatives we backed and/or highlighted had a very good night on Tuesday.
The successes, measured against the total flop in Virginia (Democrats also lost the House of Delegates) and the legislative losses in New Jersey, point to a growing dissonance in our politics. Cities are electing more and more progressive (and in some cases even socialist) candidates while rural regions embrace politicians further and further to the right. While Democrats had thought that they’d cracked the suburban code and could depend on those voters, the swamping blue slates received in certain parts of NJ, VA, and even Pennsylvania suggests otherwise.
One of the big challenges we face is figuring out just what appeals, in terms of both policy and message, to the in-between communities that make up much of the country. I made my thoughts clear this morning, and as you’ll see below, it’s not simply a matter of working backwards to shoehorn the facts to fit my ideological beliefs. Many of the initiatives that succeeded in more suburban areas were on the kinds of progressive policies that have won the day for candidates in urban districts.
There may be some cultural differences, but at the end of the day, people want help and to see tangible change. Just look at all the Republican counties in North Carolina lining up to beg the state GOP to expand Medicaid.
To get to that point, we’ll have to overcome people like Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who went on a tear against progressives today that sounded eerily familiar to the rant she went on last year after the election. Somehow, despite getting the most centrist candidate possible in Terry McAuliffe, she still believes that progressives are to blame for another election in which populist rural Americans went against Democrats in a big way.
OK, now on to the results.
Ballot Initiatives: Voters in Kyrsten Sinema’s hometown gave the thumbs up to a $15 minimum wage.
About 60% of voters — or enough to overcome a filibuster — voted to approve Proposition 206, which will raise the minimum wage to $13-an-hour in April and $15 by 2025. Crucially, it will also give an even bigger boost to tipped workers, who right now toil for the federal sub-minimum wage of $2.83-an-hour. By 2025, tipped workers will make $12, a leap that will allow them to survive bad shifts and empower them to not tolerate the harassment of rude, crude, and violent customers.
The proposition will also provide recourse to workers when their shifts are canceled at the last minute. Those scheduled for at least three hours will be entitled to three hours’ pay if an employer cancels on them inside 24 hours before they’re supposed to clock in.
Most impressively, Prop 206’s provisions will be enforced by a newly created Department of Labor Standards, an entity that will provide workers with access to relevant records and pursue bosses that bilk their employees. Backpay orders, civil fines and license suspensions will be on the table for repeat offenders.
Mayor: Political wunderkind Justin Bibb won a resounding victory on Tuesday, taking home over 63% of the vote. At 34, he becomes the second-youngest mayor in Cleveland history as he tries to turn around the poorest big city in the country.
City Council: We also supported two city council candidates in the general election. Richard Starr and Rebecca Maurer, both young progressives, were also victorious.
Ballot initiatives: The overwhelming passage of Issue 24 capped off a banner night for progressives and activists in Cleveland. The initiative, which was approved with nearly 60% of the vote, will create a Community Police Commission that will provide oversight of the Cleveland Police Department. The board will consist of 13 residents who will have authority — and by that I mean the final word — to mete out discipline to officers who break the law.
It’s worth noting that Kelley tried to smear Bibb for supporting Issue 24, which very clearly backfired.
Mayor: Ohio’s second-biggest city also elected a new millennial mayor. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, 39, beat out 81-year-old city council member and former mayor David Mann. Pureval was the progressive choice in the race; though they were both Democrats, Mann was propped up in this race by business and Republican groups, who only make up about 25% of the city.
Pureval won by an even bigger margin that Bibb, taking nearly 66% of the vote. He also had some very long coattails, as Democrats won eight of the nine seats on the City Council.
Floyd has said he will fight for housing, environmental, and economic justice on the city council after helping organize and pass medical marijuana and minimum wage increases via ballot initiatives.
Ballot Initiatives: Alas, progressives had less success in city-wide attempts to increase equity and improve democracy. None of five consequential amendments to the city charter wound up winning passage. District-based representation failed with 58% opposed, while redistricting reform and the creation of a Chief Equity Officer fell by about 10 points each.
City Council: Alas, the remarkably corrupt and execrable City Commissioner Joe Carollo continues to prove ineradicable. In what was a worryingly strong night for Republicans in Miami, complete with the re-election of Mayor Francis Suarez, Carollo won skated to another term against newcomer Quinn Smith.
Mayor: Some better mayoral news just up north, where City Council President Felicia Moore blew away the competition in the Atlanta mayoral primary election. She took home 40% of the vote, nearly double that of her two closest competitors, to advance to the run-off election next month. Even better, it looks as if corrupt former Mayor Kasim Reed fell very short in his comeback attempt, getting edged out by City Council member Andre Dickens for the second slot in the runoff.
Assorted: Things didn’t go so well for Democrats in the greater Atlanta metro area suburbs, where the conservative candidates in what are officially nonpartisan races largely come out victorious.
Mayor: In what was possibly the biggest bummer of the night, India Walton lost a re-match to four-term incumbent Byron Brown after pulling off a shocking upset in the Democratic primary. Brown ran a write-in campaign against Walton, a progressive nurse and organizer, and was assisted by Republican money, Democratic Party indifference, and systemic corruption. Walton ran something of a rocky campaign filled with the sorts of unforced errors you might expect from someone with no institutional support.
Ballot initiatives: While New Yorkers approved proposition two, guaranteeing a right to clean air, they narrowly voted down propositions 1, 2, and 3, which would have ended prison gerrymandering, capped State Senate seats, created no-excuse absentee voting, and ended the deadline on voter registration.
How did this happen in what is such an overwhelmingly Democratic state? New York Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs says that the party didn’t spend a dime on promoting any of the propositions, despite each of them being very advantageous to the party. Republicans, on the other hand, sunk a lot of money, time, and effort into fighting them.
Josh Solomon @therealjsoloNew: NY Democratic Party Chairman tells me the state party spent no money on Props 1, 3 and 4. Jay Jacobs said that was because no one had asked him to financially back them. But a state Senate Dem say they asked the party for support in Mid-October. https://t.co/dhP4BuDcRM
Legislators and members of Congress who were already calling for his resignation over his years of protecting disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo and refusing to endorse India Walton are now adding this quiet atrocity to the list of offenses.
City Council: Score another win for the corporate centrists, as Sara Nelson defeated Nikkita Oliver, a lawyer and community activist, by a sizable margin. Put an asterisk on this race, however, as “centrist” in Seattle means something far different than it does in much of the rest of the country.
Ballot initiatives: Well, to quote that poet Meatloaf, 66% is pretty good.
All three of the propositions put to voters fell short of passage on Sunday, and two of those losses can be considered victories for progressives. Conservative groups poured money into campaigns to pass Proposition 120 and Amendment 78, which would have cut property taxes and give lawmakers more control over government spending, respectively, and both topped out at about 44% support.
Democrats urged people to vote no on both propositions, though Gov. Jared Polis, who is enormously wealthy, had said he would personally vote for Prop 120.
Also falling short was Prop 119, which would have placed a 5% sales tax on marijuana and used the income to finance after-school learning programs and opportunities for low-income Coloradans. That one had more institutional support from Democrats, but raising sales tax is really a regressive tax that shouldn’t be on the table right now.
Ballot Initiatives: People in Colorado just really did not want to pass any ballot initiatives! Housing activists in Boulder failed to persuade voters to back a proposal to loosen stringent zoning and limits on the number of unrelated people that can live in a single house. Perhaps they were confused by the bizarre name of the organization pushing the initiative, Bedrooms Are People. Without any context, I’d disagree with it, too!
Ballot Initiatives: As I mentioned earlier today, grassroots activists triumphed over corporate landlords in a big-money campaign to pass a rent control law that caps rent increases at 3% per year. Here’s a long piece I wrote about it last month.
Ballot Initiatives: Like their neighbor across the river, Minneapolitans voted to approve a cap on rent increases, but instead of a specific number, they were only asked to authorize the city council to pass one legislatively.
On the other hand, a little more than a year after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, residents decided not to functionally change law enforcement in the city. Question 2 proposed that they replaced the police department with an agency that explicitly prioritized public safety, but given he huge opposition from both sides of the aisle, it didn’t wind up standing much of a chance.
Austin: At least something is going right in Texas. In May, conservatives won passage of an initiative that basically made homelessness illegal, but on Tuesday, things snapped back to normal in the famously weird and liberal city. Austin voters overwhelmingly rejected Prop A, a ballot initiative that would have hiked up the number of cops in the city to a ratio of two per thousand people.